Monday, May 30, 2016

A Reflection on the Chains that Bind You

Using the example of Venerable Matt Talbot, the author, an attorney in private practice in New York City, asks you to reflect on the chains that bind you.

Finding Freedom Within Our Chains
Tom Zampino
February 15, 2016

To what are you addicted? What is it that holds you down, as if a prisoner?

Which are the chains that bind you?

You don’t have to say it out loud. No one need hear you.

You can even deny that anyone ever posed the question.

I won’t say anything.

But come clean. Right now.

After all, it’s just you, alone, reading some words on a screen, right?

Is it pornography? Alcohol? Gambling? Anger? Money? Junk television? Your knee-jerk reaction to those little things which constantly tick you off – every . . . single . . . time?

Look, we all struggle with some form of addiction.

For some, it’s a defining characteristic. 

For others, our addictions hold us back from being – becoming, really – our better selves.

We are all, to one degree or another, chained.

Matt Talbot (1856-1925) was someone who knew a lot about the chains of addiction. He had become a “hopeless alcoholic” by age thirteen. gives us a quick background:
Matthew Talbot was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings, in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. When Matthew was about 12 years old, he started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers. The eldest brother, John, was the exception. Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe punishments but without success.
An unskilled laborer, Talbot struggled, until age 28, not only with drink, but with a fierce temper and criminal behavior that fed into his addiction.

Then things changed.


And for the next forty years, Talbot was a new man.

Eventually, Talbot became a Third Order Franciscan, spent many hours in prayer, and lived the life of an ascetic. He’s even on the road to sainthood.

But here’s my point.

Talbot was never actually freed from his chains.


But he did, literally, exchange them.

You see, it was revealed upon his death that for some period of time after his conversion, Talbot had worn physical chains around his body. Why?
The chains . . . were not some extreme penitential regime but a symbol of his devotion to Mary, Mother of God that he wished to give himself to her totally as a slave. This life was his prayer to God and his defense against a reversion to alcoholism.

Freedom from addiction.

Freedom through – freedom because of – his chains.

Talbot had exchanged the chains of addiction for new ones: chains that he chose; chains which led him directly to freedom.

So permit me to ask once again:

Which are the chains that bind you?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Remembering Venerable Matt Talbot Today on Trinity Sunday

It was on Trinity Sunday, 7 June 1925, that Matt Talbot collapsed and died of heart failure while walking in Granby Lane to a Mass in St.Savior's Church on Dominic Street, Dublin.
In his article posted earlier today at,
Deacon Scott reminds us to join him “in praying that Papa Begoglio, who will visit Ireland in 2018, in his paternal tenderness, will make Matt Blessed. His intercession works miracles all the time."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Terry Nelson's latest Venerable Matt Talbot painting

Terry describes his third (but not his last) attempt to "capture" Matt Talbot on canvas. Thank you, Terry.



Matt Talbot
T. Nelson 2016

I finished the Talbot painting - almost, I have some more glazing to do, shading - but the figure and composition is pretty much finished.  I hope to frame it importantly.  I did a quick 'fuzzy' shot of the canvas, as shown above.  It came off a bit too light.

I read that he was an 'undersized, wiry man,' and a laborer.  I read he wore his working clothes everywhere - so I imagined a jacket and collarless shirt, a bit worn - just as I always depict him.  The difference this time is that I have him balding more than in my other paintings.  There are a couple of early paintings, one by a religious sister, depicting him bald, and I wanted to do so as well.  My composition is spare - a few religious mementos and scraps of paper, upon which it is said Matt would make spiritual notes - a small statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and holy cards of Therese and Catherine of Siena comprise the 'still life' on the mantel.  Above these, a very small image of OL of Perpetual Help hanging by a string.  Matt stands in front of the tall, narrow tenement mantel, upon which these poor possessions are displayed.  Interrupted in his devotion, clutching a crucifix, he looks out at the viewer.

As I painted, I had in mind a young Irish man I had met at Lourdes years ago.  He wasn't very tall either - but a handsome man, and something about him reminded me of how Matt might have been at the time of his conversion.  I tried to imagine him in his 60's now, and made a sort of composite of images of Matt Talbot and my recollection of the man from Lourdes.  The face developed rather quickly.  The paint is quite thin - not as layered as I normally would paint - and suddenly this face appeared, which startled me.  I don't know how I did it, where it came from, or how it came together so swiftly.

Anyway.  Quirky as it is, this is my third attempt to paint venerable Matt Talbot.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Saint in Waiting: Venerable Matt Talbot

by Fr Richard Ebejer  
Pioneer, April 2015, page 21

“We are commemorating the ninetieth anniversary of the death of Venerable Matt Talbot this year. Coming from a poor and deprived background, Matt found himself sucked into the culture of addiction and embraced alcohol as a means of escape from the misery and poverty of daily life. Today, we live in an age of addictions more sophisticated than ever before; addiction to alcohol and a wide range of drugs. All these have the ability to destroy our lives and often end up eating away at our very souls as well.

Matt Talbot came to a realisation of how his life was being wasted, and from the time of his conversion as a young man of twenty-eight years of age, he spent the rest of his life living to a heroic extent the Christian virtues through prayer, spiritual reading, work and acts of charity.

We believe that Matt has a strong message for today, and can be a role model to the young people of our time. His life is a testimony of how people can, by God’s grace and their own self-acceptance, say 'no' to that which leads to addiction or addictive behaviour. Matt sets before us a radical example, which demonstrates how young people,in particular, can do
extraordinary things.

The message of Matt Talbot is a call to conversion, a call to change our lives, letting go of our particular attachments while giving God a place in our lives. In promoting his devotion, one is extending this message of conversion to all who come in touch with his life. We are encouraging you to keep his memory alive in your own parish and within the Pioneer Association by promoting his devotion.”

‘For Matt, the Pioneer Association was a source of support and encouragement, but just as important it gave him the opportunity to support others suffering from alcoholism through his daily Pioneer Offering of prayer on their behalf. Matt understood the human condition with all it's weakness and frailties. He once said to his sister Susan, "never think harshly of a person because of the drink. it's easier to get out of hell than to give up the drink. For me it was only possible with the help of God and our blessed Mother".’

Prayer for the Canonisation of Matt Talbot

Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you
have given us a wonderful example of
triumph over addiction, of devotion to
duty, and of lifelong reverence for the
Holy Sacrament. May his life of
prayer and penance give us courage
to take up our crosses and follow in the
footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ.

Father, if it be your will that your
beloved servant should be glorified by
your Church, make known by your
heavenly favours the power he enjoys in
your sight. We ask this through the
same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.


Note: Fr. Ebejer is the administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Dublin, location of the Matt Talbot Shrine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Portrait of a Young Matt Talbot

Grzegorz Jakielski posted this portrait (and text) of Matt Talbot on his English Facebook page earlier today at 
“Some time ago I found the information on the web that in the Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary in the Różanystok has a painting of Venerable Matt Talbot. I went more than 250 km to find out about whether the information is true. The information proved to be true.

Unfortunately, the pastor had no information who is the artist of the painting or when it was hung in the Sanctuary.”

Note: Grzegorz’s Polish sites devoted to Venerable Matt Talbot are
Additional photographs of this painting of Matt Talbot in Różanystok can be viewed at and

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Walking Tour

One of the Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland
events for May 2016 is The Monto Walking Tour,

Join local historian,Terry Fagan, North Inner City Folklore Project, on a ramble around Dublin’s Monton: an area stretching from Foley Street to Sean McDermott Street which was famous as a red light district. We will hear stories of locals who lived in the tenements, notorious madams, the man with the hidden secret dubbed ‘Dublin’s Oskar Schindler,’ the Venerable Matt Talbot whose shrine we shall visit and events linked to the 1913 Lockout and the struggle for Irish Independence as we walk these streets which are steeped in history.
Meet at Connolly Station at 11 am. Concludes at approximately 12:30 pm.

Monday, May 2, 2016

160th Anniversary of Venerable Matt Talbot’s Birth

Matthew was born on 2 May 1856 at 13 Aldborough Court, Dublin, Ireland, the second eldest of twelve children of Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. He was baptized three days later at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral.